Author Khushnuma Takes Us On 50 Coffee Dates With Patriarchy And It Went So ‘Macho-ato’
- IWB Post
- July 3, 2019
He: So what are your thoughts on Inter-caste marriage?
She: Well, if there is compatibility, I wonder how much do these things matter? The recent marriage in my family was “inter-caste”!
He: What!! Doesn’t it seem to you like, like making dogs breed cats?!
(That’s a girl meeting a potential groom over an “arranged” coffee date.)
Did you just raise your eyebrow? And now thinking about the boy’s conditioning and his attitude that is typical of our society, wondering about how the date must have proceeded? Such curiosity-laden thoughts were what led Khushnuma Daruwala to listen deeper to her friend’s 50 odd (yes, you got the number right) obnoxious and perplexing coffee date experiences, and to wittily pour them in her debut novel, 50 Cups Of Coffee: The Woes and Throes of Finding Mr. Right.
Not a rulebook or guide, the humorous 50 Cups is for you to relax-read and enjoy the sense of kinship it offers to women who have suffered dating disasters. “We’re all in similar boats, sailing through the waters of matrimony and society’s stereotypes, and sailing through their forever hovering pressure,” shared the promising author.
So make yourself some coffee and tag along as we catch up with Khushnuma to find out why one should set out on a date with self and read ‘50 Cups Of Coffee’ instead:
Read for us between the lines of your book.
The book is a narration of coffee-date experiences and not a linear narrative, so there is no danger of giving away the plot, she laughed. It is a compilation of the 50-dates arranged via matrimonial sites that my friend, Dia (the protagonist) goes through, and as one reads you find out why she decides to go through her groom-hunting adventures despite being stuck in the most hilarious and unsought situations repeatedly.
Sounds interesting. So were there moments of rediscovering something about herself, too, with every cup or so?
Now you’re certainly asking me for some inadvertent revelation (ha-ha). But I do relate to the curiosity, and the answer to your question is both yes and no. Dia is in her mid-30s and on a relentless quest for her soul mate, and each date leaves her perplexed with the realization that finding a partner can be so difficult, but also more determined. I remember her sharing with me, “Somewhere I felt that perhaps it is I, and not the men, who are commitment-phobic.” So yeah, she does have her moments of confusion and self-doubts, which on reading, you’ll find, only add to the naturalness of the story and its relatable quotient.
At the end of the every date-gone-wrong episode, there pops a coffee date wisdom, the sight of which (above) indeed satiated our curiosity for the time being!
What about giving us a glimpse of your first reaction to these much-talked “50 Coffee Dates”?
So to be honest, when my friend first shared with me her experiences, I was as amused as I was shocked. How did she even have the patience and energy to meet FIFTY people is what left me amazed and in a mixed-emotion state! But I guess in some ways she was responding to the ever-prevalent pressure to marry.
And how exactly did the idea of authoring these dates shape up?
The decision to write the book was sudden. I was on a sabbatical in 2011, and incidentally, that was the time when my friend happened to share the coffee incidents with me. I always knew that I liked writing, but had never explored it beyond the realms of advertising, and neither had I ever thought of being an author. The fact that online matrimonial sites and matchmaking avenues are a reality and we all either hear or have ourselves experienced disaster dates, made the idea of penning down these date-instances exciting. And when my friend showed no inclination of writing herself, I decided to give it a go.
I began to collect stories from other people and gradually saw certain themes emerging. Always certain about not giving it a feel of a typical romance novel, I was glad about the way it shaped into exclusive yet mutually inclusive coffee-date-chapters.
Have you too had such experiences over Coffee?
Ha-ha. I am not a coffee or tea person!
Okay! We’re guessing that patriarchy too must have a role in messing up with your friend’s coffee aroma! Did it?
Yes, of course. How could it not! When you read, you’ll find how deeply the notion is engraved, and how casually it comes in their (men’s) conversation. The biggest turn-off being the same old-age question of “Can you cook?”
I mean, c’mon, you are educated and belong to the so-called “progressive” strata of the society, and all that you are interested in asking your potential life partner is whether she can cook or not! Where is even the place of this question in your first ever meeting with a lady, and wouldn’t you rather want to know about her dreams, aspirations, and the other factors that would speak of the much important scope of compatibility?
Hmmmm. So is there someone you know whom you think needs or would savour this book the most at the moment?
I, myself, she laughed. Many of my friends, on reading the book, shared that they enjoyed and could resonate with the situation and humour. So I think the idea got conveyed well, and I am glad that they appreciated the writing, too.
Any single woman who is in the “suitable” or not age-bracket of marriage, dealing with the pressure and questions coming from her parents, relatives, neighbours (anyone in short), will absolutely love the book!
Oh! So what would be your calming words to the parents and those aunts and uncles, telling them that it ain’t their cup of tea, oops! coffee?
Oh, ha-ha, I like how that sounds! I’d like to present them with this quote from the book, “Everyone married is not happy, and everyone happy is not married.” Having said that, I don’t find their concern wrong, but they need to understand that marriage is not the definition of happiness, and it just can’t be the sole focus of one’s life.
We’re brought up in the manner, and the marriage-related concerns are so profusely fed to us, that when the pressure intensifies, we can even forget that there’s much more to life. Marriage is one of the many spheres of life, and things can’t just be put on back burner if for whatever reason it is not happening.
True that. And there exists this concept of “Expiry Date” too, and especially for girls – your thoughts?
Yes, there does. Fortunately, it has faded a bit with time, but only in traces. And goes without saying that boys enjoy a relaxation in this, too. It is strange that even today people have not been able to make peace with the idea of a girl choosing to stay single, and can’t respect her decision in that case.
It is something with the social conditioning that if a girl is single, they’ll judge her for not having been able to find “someone.” A few days back I was reading this article by New York Times, titled, ‘Is there something odd about being single?’ shedding light on how single people are looked at with pity.
Sabbatical too being a not as popularly-accepted concept, how was your experience?
I have taken quite a few sabbaticals, the first experience of which was after I completed two years at an Research firm. I had wanted to learn pottery, and I remember telling everyone that I’ll be a potter now (she laughed). But after attending a class I took off because I didn’t find myself in it, and after a break, joined work again.
Would you share with us a few censored truths that your sabbaticals taught you?
For me sabbaticals are a time to stop and listen to yourself. Often we get so caught up in the speed and stress of our careers we put some of our passions on the back-burner. A sabbatical is a good break to re-explore those passions or maybe discover new ones or simply stand still.
It was during my last sabbatical, which happened in 2011 (after 9 years of working in the field of advertising) that I happened to start writing this book, and later when I rejoined work, I managed to continue writing because I had realized my love for it. It was also the period when I saw myself turn into a reader.
And now that we’re on our last sip, we are getting reminded of the interesting Turkish symbolism that predicts the drinker’s future on the pattern of the left behind coffee marks in their cup. Would you share with what you are seeing?
To quickly find an interesting idea for my second book, and she left us with a good laugh!
This article was first published on October 30, 2017.